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Robert D. Berry v. Village of Millbrook

September 26, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge:


Plaintiff Robert D. Berry ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983") against the Village of Millbrook, New York ("Millbrook"), the Dutchess County District Attorney's Office ("Dutchess DAO"), Investigator Stanley Marchinkowski ("Marchinkowski"), Detective Charles Locke ("Locke"), and John and/or Jane Doe, asserting violations of his Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, with all counts stemming from his prosecution in the Millbrook Village Court.*fn1 Plaintiff also asserts claims under the New York State Constitution. Defendants Millbrook and the Dutchess DAO filed motions to dismiss, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), seeking to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims against them.*fn2 For the reasons stated herein, the motions are granted.

I. Background For purposes of deciding the instant motions to dismiss, the Court accepts as true the allegations contained in Plaintiff's Amended Verified Complaint ("Amended Complaint") and construes them in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.

A. Factual Background

On December 13, 2006, Plaintiff was arrested by Locke, a detective with the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office, on charges of: (1) Grand Larceny, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 155.35; (2) Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 175.35; and (3) Committing a Fraudulent Practice, in violation of Workers' Comp. Law § 114.3. (Am. Compl. ¶ 8.) That same day, Plaintiff was arraigned at the Millbrook Village Court and entered a plea of not guilty. (Id. ¶ 9.) For the next twenty-four months, Judge Louis Prisco ("Judge Prisco"), an "employee and civil servant" of the Village Court in Millbrook, was the judge presiding over Plaintiff's case. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 20.) Plaintiff alleges that because "[n]o progress was made in expediting a Discovery Hearing or indictment of the charges[,] . . . a letter of a Grand Jury waiver was sent, dated April 24, 2007, to the Millbrook Village Court." (Id. ¶ 10.) According to Plaintiff, "upon receiving the letter, a Divestiture to Superior Court, dated May 9, 2007 was filled out" but was "never signed and transmitted to County Court." (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff alleges that "there is no evidence that the District Attorney ever mitigated the charges to misdemeanors therefore granting jurisdiction to the village court." (Id.)

However, Plaintiff alleges that "[d]espite the waiver to the Grand Jury, the village court demanded" that Plaintiff "continue to appear on a monthly basis." (Id. ¶ 12.) In three court appearances in 2008, Plaintiff alleges that his then-attorney "tried to explain to the Honorable Judge Prisco that since "[P]laintiff . . . had waived the matter to the Grand Jury in April of 2007[,] . . . the Village Court no longer had jurisdiction at that point and had no legal reason to mandate plaintiff's appearance with an attorney each month." (Id. ¶ 15.) However, "Judge Prisco disagreed." (Id.)

On September 30, 2008, the Assistant District Attorney ("ADA") moved to reduce the three felony charges to misdemeanors. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff "objected on the grounds that there were no charges pending in the Village Court and the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the District Attorney's motion." (Id.) Judge Prisco asked whether the charges had been presented to the Grand Jury. (Id.) When the parties explained that the Grand Jury had been waived, Judge Prisco granted the ADA's motion. (Id.) On January 8, 2009, the prosecution was terminated pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 180.85. (Id. ¶ 17.)*fn3

B. Procedural Background

On April 7, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Summons with Notice in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Dutchess. On April 30, 2009, Millbrook removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 & 1441(b). (Dkt. No. 1.) After it removed the case, Millbrook submitted a letter to the Court, dated May 6, 2009, asserting that Plaintiff's Summons with Notice failed to satisfy the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and requesting that the Court direct Plaintiff to file a complaint in conformance with the Federal Rules. (Dkt. No. 2.) In response, the Court requested that Plaintiff file a complaint consistent with the Federal Rules and provided Plaintiff with the contact number of the Southern District of New York's Pro Se Office for assistance. (Dkt. No. 3.) Plaintiff complied and filed a Verified Complaint on June 8, 2009, naming Millbrook, the Dutchess DAO, the New York State Insurance Fund ("NYSIF"), The Daily Freeman, and John and/or Jane Doe as defendants. (Dkt. No. 4.) In September 2009, Defendants Millbrook and the Dutchess DAO filed motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Dkt. Nos. 20, 22.) On November 7, 2009, Plaintiff notified the Court: (1) that he was voluntarily dismissing the NYSIF as a Defendant in the case due to 11th Amendment sovereign immunity; and (2) that he intended to serve an Amended Complaint on "the individuals [] not exempt from [] liability" who had been directly involved in the alleged violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. (Letter from Pl. to the Ct. (Nov. 7, 2009) (Dkt. No. 27).)

On January 27, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint, seeking to add § 1983 false arrest and malicious prosecution claims and state law defamation claims against Marchinkowski and Locke. (Dkt. No. 30.) On September 29, 2010, the Court issued an Opinion and Order granting Plaintiff leave to add the § 1983 claims, but denying leave with respect to the defamation claim. (Dkt. No. 40.) In the same Opinion and Order, the Court denied without prejudice the pending motions to dismiss of Millbrook and the Dutchess DAO because Plaintiff would be filing an Amended Complaint. (Id.) Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on October 18, 2010, adding Marchinkowski and Locke as defendants. (Dkt. No. 41.) On November 5, 2010, the Dutchess DAO filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) (Dkt. No. 42), and Millbrook filed a 12(b)(6) motion dismiss on November 15, 2010, (Dkt. No. 44). Plaintiff filed an updated Amended Verified Complaint on December 13, 2010 that removed The Daily Freeman as a defendant and Plaintiff's defamation claims but was otherwise identical to the Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 57.) The Court designated the updated pleading the Second Amended Verified Complaint in an Order dated December 14, 2010. (Dkt. No. 56.) Because Millbrook and the Dutchess DAO submitted their motions to dismiss before Plaintiff filed this updated pleading (and because the changes in the Second Amended Verified Complaint did not affect the pending motions in any way), the Court has used the Amended Complaint as the operative document in deciding the pending motions.

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

"On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a complaint, the court must accept a plaintiff's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in [the plaintiff's] favor." Gonzales v. Caballero, 572 F. Supp. 2d. 463, 466 (S.D.N.Y. 2008); see also Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) ("We review de novo a district court's dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), accepting all factual allegations in the complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." (internal quotation marks omitted)). In adjudicating a 12(b)(6) motion, a court must confine its consideration to "facts stated in the complaint or documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference" and facts of which the Court may take judicial notice. Nechis v. Oxford Health Plans, Inc., 421 F.3d 96, 100 (2d Cir. 2005); see also Leonard F. v. Isr. Disc. Bank of N.Y., 199 F.3d 99, 107 (2d Cir. 1999).

"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). Instead, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. A complaint cannot rest solely on conduct consistent with behavior that raises a right to relief; a plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 547. If a plaintiff "ha[s] not nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [his] complaint must be dismissed." Id. "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the ...

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